Airline companies have slowly but surely done everything they can to make air travel more miserable, taking away amenities and chipping away at passengers' resolve while inching us all closer to the dystopian future we, admittedly, probably deserve. After all, we shouldn't be flying anyway.
But it increasingly feels like an evil cabal of airline executives and architects from The Bad Place get together every couple of years to come up with nightmare innovations to torture customers: confusing bag fees, standing sections, and even boarding pass printing fees. Upset that your seat doesn't recline anymore? Just be grateful you even have a seat.
The reason we're pondering the existential depravity of air travel today is because this week, the Crystal Cabin Awards announced the shortlist of, as CNN put it, "aircraft innovations you didn't know you needed." As you can see up above, these new aircraft innovations include a daring new form of seating in which your legs literally meld with the legs of the person sitting before you as you lock eyes for hours inside the tightly enclosed space. In their pursuit of new ways of stuffing more people into airplanes, airlines never stopped to ask if mankind should transcend its fleshy shell.
The above design is courtesy of engineering company Heinkel Group, whose "Flex Lounge" proposal suggests "a flexible configuration for seat rows in economy cabins. Post take-off, flight attendants can rearrange the rows so that passengers traveling together can face one another, allowing for a more intimate, casual experience for families, groups of friends or co-workers traveling together." All the worst of the commuter train experience has been bottled and placed into the sky.
To top it off, Crystal Cabin Awards even stumbled upon a perfect slogan for the new seating: “Even ‘cattle class’ can be made more comfortable."
Besides the "Flex Lounge," which truly nails the description of "aircraft innovations you didn't know you needed," the other innovations aren't quite as nightmarish. Some are reasonable, like Ciara Crawford's ROW1 seat, which would allow a wheelchair to be fitted seamlessly into the row, or Collins Aerospace's proposed Zero G Attendant Seat, which lets flight crew spread out a bit more. Some seem inevitable, like AERQ's OLED information screen which could double up as a cabin-class divider, and Adient Aerospace's idea to take three seats in the front of the plane and turn it into a sofa-style flat bed.
But we have no doubt that somewhere in the world right now, Spirit Airlines is taking note.